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The Killing Edge

by P L Nunn


Chapter 1



Colonial India


An elephant lumbered down the road, urged along by a boy hardly wider than the great beast's swaying trunk. It pulled in its ambling wake the trunk of a tree, stirring up a cloud of dust and scouring the hard dirt of the road. One made way for it, wary of such massive beasts, even if the sight of them had become commonplace during the last year or more of wondering India.

Bangalore and Goa, Poona and Bombay, they'd walked from the eastern coast to the western and seen jungles lusher than any Japan had to offer. Seen sights that Himura Kenshin had never thought to see, having until little over a year and a half ago, never thought to leave the shores of Japan. He'd never had the inclination. Not like Sano, who had crossed the sea already once, and claimed a great and intimate knowledge of certain parts of China. But India was new to him as well, and he'd gaped no less than Kenshin when they'd seen their first elephant, great leathery skinned beasts as docile as any trained dog, doing the labor of twenty men. He'd stared no less impressed when they'd stood at the foot of the temple in Padmanabha or the ancient shrine to Kali on the outskirts of Hyderabad that had been old before the city itself had been built. It had been a very long time, longer by far than he'd walked the paths of this land, since he had let himself simply revel in the joy of discovery.

Sometimes he even forgot the pain that seemed always to linger at the heart of him, distracted by the wonders of a new world, or by Sano's easy company. Then the sight of a young child, clutching the hand of its mother, would remind him of what he'd lost and the weight of grief would ease its way back in where it belonged. He hated himself for those moments, where he could live a life free of the guilt of his failure to save them. He wanted that guilt - - he deserved it, no matter what Sano said. And Sano said a great deal, having strong opinions on the subject.

They made their way the best they could. Doing odd jobs when they could in exchange for a meal, day work when it was available in the villages and towns they passed through. Sano gambled when he had a coin or two to spare, and his luck these past months had not been half bad. But games of chance were easier found in the cities. There was little enough to feed a man's family in the smaller villages to spare for games of chance. But the rains had been plentiful this year and the crops were good, so an odd job here and there was not impossible to find.

And when work could not be found - - well, neither Kenshin nor Sano were unfamiliar with walking a day or two with nothing but water on their bellies. They'd heard rumors the last village they'd passed, of a call for workers to dig an aqueduct on the reserve of the local landlord. Rupee in their pockets for a few honest days work would be a welcome thing.

So they headed that way, to a village that bordered the estate of the Englishman that owned the lands that the people of all the neighboring villages farmed for their livelihoods. A good-sized village, the fields that preceded it thick with sugar cane. A great many low, thatch-roofed houses, a great many people on the streets, going about their daily business. More perhaps than one might expect mid-day in a farming community.

They got a few looks here and there as they passed, the people here well used to Europeans but not so much lighter skinned Asians of Japanese decent. Not many though, people more interested in a gathering towards the center of the town.

"Army," Sano, who could see over the heads of most of the crowd, said, as they approached the edge of it. A half head shorter Kenshin took his word for it, skirting the edge of the gathering, taking into account more men in the sand colored uniforms of military men about the town now that he sought them out. A regiment's worth of men, at the very least, mostly Indians with their pointed turbans and their long rifles strapped to their backs with their packs. He saw a glimpse through a gap in the crowd of an English officer, speaking with an Indian elder near what must have been the town's temple.

"What's going on?" Sano asked in English, of a bare chested native. Sano's English was better than Kenshin's, though Kenshin spoke it tolerably well now.

"Sir Porter has refused to pay for the honest work many men have done on his aqueduct," the man spat, glancing at Sano. Then looking again, taking them in, their native linins and their foreign features. "When we complained - - he called in the army, accusing us of insurgency. "

Not an unfamiliar tale. The English who had been granted land rights here by their queen tended towards avarice, taking every advantage over a native people they considered below them. Kenshin had seen it no few times. Had heard the complaints of people taxed into starvation - - people forbidden to grow the harvest of their choice in favor of sowing their fields with crops dictated by their English overseers. And when they complained of it, cried foul and sought to the voices of others in agreement, they were charged with insurgency against the crown and jailed.

"The English Captain," the man waved a hand towards the officer. "He says that we may not gather to complain. He says that we may take up our grievance with the magistrate. How will we get justice, when Sir Porter serves that post?"

He spat again, and stalked off into the crowd.

"Well, damn," Sano said. "I guess there's no work to be had here after all."

He was as bare-chested at the native man, the day being an oppressively hot one. No one here cared if a man went half naked, the heat lasting year round in this part of the country. Kenshin had his own open down the front, cloak and blanket and what other few supplies he had to his name in a pack he wore over his shoulder. He had no blade. He hadn't since the first day he'd truly accepted that Kaoru and Kenji were dead. He'd tossed it into the sea - - useless thing that it had been - - unable to save them with it. Sano had called him a fool for it. Accused him of trying to punish himself for something he'd had no control over.

Sometimes he even half believed that. Only sometimes, though.

There was a well at town's center and water was free. They weeded their way through the disgruntled crowd, past ranks of wary infantry at the edges of it, and towards the central well. A great many women gathered around it, in their plain linen sari's and scarves, speaking in hushed tones among themselves, casting worried glances at the gathering of angry men.

Kenshin pulled up the bucket and took the empty canteen from his pack to fill with water. Sano had his own and they drank their fill. Sano filled the bucket once more and emptied it over his head, before smiling at a homely young Hindu woman and inquiring.

"Know of any work in town that could get a man a bowl of rice or two?"

The girl hunched her shoulders, embarrassed or shy or simply not used to being spoken to by strange men. But she looked to her friends and after conferring, one of them said. "You might try Daji at the edge of town. Her husband broke his leg last week and there might be work she needs done because of it."

"He was lazy to begin with," another woman said. "There will be work aplenty that needs doing, if all you need is a bowl of rice."

They laughed, amusing themselves in gossip of a neighbor.

Daji did indeed have chores in sore need to doing. Firewood in need of chopping and a hole in the roof in need of thatching. A good afternoon's work of work for the both of them and likely worth more than a simple meal, but beggars could hardly be choosers. They got rice and flatbread out of it, which they ate out in the yard, away from a complaining, bed-ridden husband and a screaming infant.

"So what do think, do we stay here for the night, or head out?" Sano asked, after they'd plucked the last grain of rice from their bowls and sat in the grass at the side of Daji's house.

"With the infantry in town, I'd just as well sleep outside of town," Kenshin admitted.

Sano nodded. "So, we fill our canteens and head out."

It was a sensible plan. Kenshin had no love for the English and Sano had no love for authority of any sort. Avoiding them both worked best for all concerned. Sano went ahead, while Kenshin returned the bowls and thanked the Goodwife. He was better by far that Sano when it came to the little courtesies, even though the patching of a roof was worth far more than the two bowls of rice that the goodwife had complained was depleting her larder to part with. She kept him a little longer, out in the yard, beyond the hearing of her bed bound husband, and asked what news had come down the road from the towns and villages they had passed.

He passed along what things he thought she might find of interest, and she raised her brow at his accent, and no doubt the shape of his eyes. She leaned in conspiratorially and said. "If you're Chinese, don't let the English know. There's little love lost since the Opium Wars."

"I'm not," he assured her.

And she shrugged, doubtful. Almost, one could be offended.

"Just good advice." She returned to her house, and Kenshin shouldered his pack and headed back towards the center of town and the well where Sano would be waiting - - probably impatient, by now.

He heard the frantic blowing of a whistle before he'd rounded the corner to the village center. Heard the sound of men's voices raised in alarm. Of cries and the sound of conflict.

He swore, increasing his pace. Surely if there was trouble, Sanosuke would have found his way to the center of it.



Sanosuke Sagara was not by any definition of the word, a 'do-gooder'. He didn't go out of his way to right wrongs or see that justice was carried out. He had rather a fondness for certain elements of the underworld, long as too many innocent folk weren't getting hurt. He and Kenshin had used to differ a lot on that count, Kenshin's sense of honor a much more defined thing than Sano's. But of late - - this last year and half since he'd failed to save Kaoru and his and Kaoru's kid - - well, Kenshin had retreated from the world. Kenshin turned a blind eye to a lot of things, either too wrapped up in his own shell of grief and guilt to notice, or simply too broken to care. It took a damned lot to rile him nowadays. A damn lot to shake him out of the quiet lassitude that he wore like a cloak.

Those first six- - eight months had been the worst. It had been like traveling with a man who'd lost his tongue for all he spoke. Lost most of his mind for all the interest he showed in the world around him. Sano who'd never been known for his patience, figured he ranked right up there with the saints for the tolerance he'd shown dealing with it.

Kenshin was better - - marginally. Sano could occasionally get a smile out of him. Could get him to show interest in some of the places they visited. Still, there was a certain spark missing, like Kaoru dying had ripped something out of him that was hard pressed to regrow.

Or losing Kenji. Kenshin could talk about Kaoru sometimes - - but he couldn't bring himself yet to speak of the child. He'd go pale and clam up, looking like something noxious and hard had formed in his gut when Sano brought up the boy. Three years old, that's what Kenji had been when he'd died, and Sano couldn't quite wrap his mind around having a kid and then loosing it. Maybe Kenshin couldn't either and that was the problem.

He sure as hell still held on to the guilt of not being able to save them. The guilt of sleeping with Sano while he'd still thought they were alive. He hadn't slept or done anything else with him since. Sano wasn't even sure if he masturbated - - like maybe he thought that denying himself honest, physical needs was just rewards. Sometimes the way Kenshin's mind worked was beyond Sano's ken. God's knew Sano didn't deny himself physical release, even if it was by his own hand. And after the first few months or so, he even stopped going off alone and dealing with it privately so as not to offend Kenshin in his grief. If Kenshin had an issue with Sano lying across from him in his own bedding, dealing with his morning erection - - then Kenshin could damn well get up from where ever they'd bedded down for the night and remove himself to a safe distance.

But Kenshin didn't complain. Kenshin existed. Kenshin did what needed doing. He walked through this land without really immersing himself in it, a casual wonderer without a destination. And Sano wondered with him, because a half alive Kenshin was better than no Kenshin at all and Sano, despite all his lack of patience, was more than willing to wait for him to heal.

The sun was low now, the shadows lengthening in the streets of this town, the name of which Sano hadn't bothered to ask. As he neared the well, movement caught his eyes, the shifting of bodies, the thud of fists hitting flesh - - no not fists, wooden batons, as a group of uniformed infantry gathered about the half hidden figure of a man, pummeling him with their clubs.

Wading into conflict with the military was no smart move, the British being damned touchy about challenges to their power, but three guys against one that didn't even seem to be fighting back just sat wrong with Sano. There was a point where, if a man wanted to call himself a man, he couldn't just stand back and watch.

"Hey," he barked, striding that way, catching the arm of one of the soldiers as he drew it back to strike the cowering man.

The others turned on him, Indians no doubt enjoying the power their British masters bestowed upon them. A baton was swung at his head and Sano caught it, the wood slapping against the palm of his hand. He wrenched it out of the man's grip and flung it away.

"Damnit, you want a fight, I'll give you a fight - -" he snarled, even as the third raised a whistle from a cord about his neck and blew into it, a shrill alarm.

He blocked a fist and smashed one of his own into the face of the man who'd swung on him. The man crashed back into the wall of the neighboring building even as the side door opened, spilling forth a whole new pack of dark skinned sepoys, come to see what the ruckus was about. No few of them with the bolt action rifles the infantry carried strapped to their backs, but in the close quarters of an alley there was no room to aim and fire, so at least he had that going for him. He ducked and knocked a guy down with a fist in his throat, took a baton in the side and ignored the pain in the kidney to smash his fist into someone else's mouth. The villager the original ones had been beating had sunk down to his hands and knees and was trying to crawl away from the melee. There were more men heading this way, more blowing of the damned whistle and cries for order in a distinctly British, British voice. With the arrival of higher authority, what might have been just a brawl turned into what was likely going to be a more complicated situation.

Fine. Just damned fine. Kenshin was going to kill him, if one of these guys didn't manage it first - - which would be a damned embarrassing way to go, taken out by an accidental hit by a half trained sepoy infantryman.

He let them take hold of him, latching onto his arms, bearing down on him with enough numbers that once they got hold he wasn't going to easily shake them. But they had stopped trying to bash his skull in with their batons, some semblance of order restored among them now that officers had arrived.

"What's the meaning of this disturbance?" The officer with the most gleaming metal upon his chest demanded. Sano had no idea what denoted rank among the British military, but this man obviously held a good deal of it, if the infantry sword with the gleaming guard at his hip, the holstered pistol on the other side and the boots that looked as if he'd just come from getting them shined were any indication. Whipcord lean, with a large drooping mustache, the man's small blue eyes bore into the lot of them.

"This man attacked us," One of the sepoy cried. There was blood seeping down his nose as evidence.

"You guys were beating an unarmed man. Three against one. I evened the odds," Sano snapped back, and got a baton slammed into the small of his back for that defense. He grunted, clenching his teeth.

The officer stared down his long nose at him with cold impartiality. "Attacking a soldier in her Majesty's service is a punishable offense. You're not Indian."

The officer strode forward and his men made hasty way for him. He was as tall as Sano, but he didn't have the breadth of shoulder.

"What makes you think?" Sano ground out.

"Where are your papers? Your passport?"

Gods. They'd run into this issue once, a few months back in Bombay, after the authorities had routed a gaming den that Sano had discovered. They'd managed to escape having to explain the lack of the passports that they probably should have gotten when they'd arrived in the country at the port of Madras.

Past the officer's shoulder he saw Kenshin in the street between the well and the group of gathered infantry around him. Sano shook his head once, sharply, warning him to keep out of it. The last thing they needed was the both of them in hot water with the powers that be.

"Passport? Didn't know I needed one, Lieutenant," Sano said making a guess.

The officer's mouth tightened under his mustache. "Captain. Captain Robert Worthington. We don't tolerate disruption of the peace here. We don't tolerate attacks upon those that serve to keep that peace. You are under arrest for assault at the very least, traveling without proper papers, and possibly the instigation of insurgency - -"

"The hell - -" Sano cried, as they hauled him past the officer. He caught Kenshin's eyes in passing. Narrow, annoyed eyes, before Kenshin lowered his head and let his hair and the shadows of evening hide his features.

The constable's office was a small affair, for a middling sized village that probably did not see a great deal of offenses to jail its citizenry. An office in the front with a surprised looking local constable behind a desk, and a single large cell in the back, with a rough wooden bench along one wall, and a pee pot in the corner.

They hustled him in, the men holding his arms doing their best to try and twist them out of socket. He ground his teeth and made them work at keeping their hold, until they slammed him face first against the bars of the cell and some inventive soul slapped a pair of iron manacles around his wrists and save them the trouble of trying to restrain him. They jerked him around them, hands on his shoulders, dark eyes glaring at him threateningly, while the Captain marched up.

"What's your name?"

"Kaito," Sano said meeting the man's eyes unflinchingly.

The Englishman didn't seem to like that, the lack of humility in the face of his superiority. He held out a hand and one of his men handed him a baton. Sano turned his head just quick enough to avoid the thing smashing across his nose. He took the blow against the cheek instead and it felt like skin split. He shook his head, little lights dancing around the edges of his vision.

"Have you any connection with the attacks on British personal and the robberies along the Guroda peninsula?"

"The what? No. I'm traveling from the west coast - - just looking for work."

"There's little enough work here for the locals. Where are your papers?"

"Yeah, well. I know that now and I don't have any."

"Are you connected with the insurgents in Guroda province, attempting to stir rebellion amongst the people?"

"I told you - - no! I'm just passing through. I did what any man with a shred of honor would have when he comes upon three thugs beating the shit out of an unarmed man. I didn't know they were your thugs, or I'd have passed by."

He got hit again for that, the baton jamming into his gut, then his jaw. He gasped, spitting out blood. The bastard had a talent with the club.

Captain Worthington leaned forward, small eyes narrowed, a vein throbbing rhythmically in his temple. "It been tasked to me to track down and eradicate the miscreants responsible for stirring violence against the crown. I take my task very seriously and I assure you there will be no leniency for those that stir rebellion. No leniency."

He handed the baton back to his subordinate, gave the man a nod, then spun on his heel and stalked for the door.

The remaining Indians turned back to Sano with dark, speculative eyes, and he figured it was going to be long night, if they'd been given leave to continue with his questioning.



Kenshin followed Sano to the constable's office, keeping to the shadows of the opposite street. Easy enough to go unnoticed, with some people still out after dusk, himself dressed the part in long native trousers and lose linen shirt. In the purple light of evening, his hair might have been the only give away, if someone across a street happened to be looking for abnormalities. Long again, the tips of it trailing the small of his back, auburn streaked with highlights of reddish gold from months of walking under the hot Indian sun. A vanity perhaps, not to cut it, but Sano claimed a fondness for it and the tail of hair at his back held a deeper meaning - - more than vanity - - a badge of what he was again - - a man without a master or a home. A rurouni without a sword.

He stood in the lee between two buildings across the street from the jail, taking in the lay of the building, squat and sturdy with a wood roof instead of thatch, and barred windows on the ground level. There was another window, higher up, for aeration that lacked armament. Easy enough to get to from the rooftops of the neighboring buildings, if one had a dire need.

A group of the native sepoy guard loitered outside the constabulary, turban wrapped helmets close together as they conferred. Eventually the British officer stalked out and they fell into place behind him, save for two that stood on guard outside the door. They headed down the street towards what might have been the village inn and those few people that had paused in their evening activities to watch the passage, returned to their work.

A man hesitantly edged towards him. Bare headed, bare chested, with the short, bunched pants that a good deal of native men wore, baring knobbing legs and dirty bare feet. There was blood on his chin, and a swollen, split lip. Kenshin looked at him quietly, suspecting the man had a purpose and waiting to see if he carried it out.

Finally, the man said. "You were with him? The man they took away?"

The man was scared and nervous, but there seemed little of ill intent about him. Kenshin nodded.

"He - - he saved me from a worse beating than I received - - and I fled. It should have been me they jailed. I'm sorry."

"What did you do?" Kenshin asked softly. "To deserve this beating?"

The man looked nervously about, then beckoned Kenshin to follow him down the alley to the relative quiet of the next street. There were only small houses here, with small yards that housed the occasional goat or chicken drowsing in the falling darkness.

"I did not do what they accused me of," the man said vehemently. "I swear that. I only complained that they were the dogs of the English to support Sir Porter's thievery against us and they accused me of sedition. I've wife and four girls and I thought of them and I ran. It was cowardice."

Kenshin shook his head. "No. The odds were against you and they have need of you more than he did. I don't fault you for running when you did. They are easy to accuse of sedition though, when a man simply speaks his mind or defends himself. Is there truth to their fears?"

The man moved towards a hovel, a hut with a rickety fence protecting a thin garden. The curtain moved and Kenshin caught a glimpse of a woman's face peering out, before she retreated.

"There are rumors of a supply train attacked north of here, of British soldiers killed and goods stolen. And another of a platoon ambushed on the road to Dagaralore and killed to a man. They fear another rebellion and they seek to slice it off at the roots before it comes to be. The men here, they are only part of a larger regiment that camps on the grounds of Sir Porter's estate. They say an English General of some repute leads them."

"What will they do, to a man accused of sedition?" Kenshin asked.

The villager shivered, casting a glance back at his hut, and said in hushed tones. "I spoke to a traveler who saw four men shot on the road, killed by soldiers under the command of the British and left to rot. The British believed them scouts for bandits on the road, but the man I spoke with claimed that they simply refused to give way - - and were belligerent about it - - when the troop commanded they clear the road for their passage. I've heard of men hanged for speaking in public of British injustices. They cling to their laws and their magistrates when it benefits them, but punishment is swift when it is the common man they find offense with. My prayers are with your friend."

Kenshin took his leave, leaving the man to return to his hovel and his family. If nothing else, Sano had saved a woman and her daughters of the loss of a husband. But he had wondered into troubles that went deeper than casual street brawls.

Kenshin was no stranger to fast, brutal elimination of potential threats. It had been the way of the world in Japan before the Meiji era with its manta of tolerance and peace. Offense had not been a thing lightly taken by men of the sword. There were samurai he had heard tell of, that would take a man's head for failing to bow the proper degree in passing, much less what they might do to a man that spoke out against their lord. Brutal men granted the power of life and death by the shoguns they had served. They were what they were, and he had taken no few of their lives during the war that had changed Japan for the better.

But these British, in their quest for colonies and their thirst for riches and power, rode rough shod over people they claimed would fall into decline without the benefit of their wise rule. They crowed to all the world of their superiority and the enlightenment of their civilization and yet they killed men on the road for daring offense as easily as the most brutal of samurai's in days gone by might kill a peasant for daring to disrespect him.

He did not wish to trust Sano's life to their mercy. It would make their lives difficult, breaking and running from this trouble, but better than sitting idly while the blade came down upon their necks. It was a big land - - a massive land compared to Japan - - and there were places aplenty that a pair of travelers might hide, living off the land itself, until furor over the loss of one man caught brawling in the street died down.

He waited until well into night, when the village was quiet and still and the darkness peaked. The sepoy guards had left some while back, along with their fellows that had lingered in the constable's office. He thought there was one village official still within the office, left to watch the prisoner, but knowing village officials of any nationality, he was likely bedded down for the night himself.

It was a simple matter of scaling the trellis at the back of the neighboring building, and making the short jump from one rooftop to the next. The shutters on the small window at the apex of the roof were open, allowing night breezes to cool the interior. He slid through, crouched on a rafter and took account of the room.

Sure enough the village constable was asleep, sprawled on a narrow cot in the front of the room. The cell in the back was dark and quiet. He lowered himself to the floor, landing without a sound. There was a ring of keys on the desk, a small stroke of luck.

"Sano?" He whispered it, standing at the cell door, sorting through the keys for the one that might fit the lock.

There was movement against the wall at the back corner of the cell, a grunt as a body pushed itself up with effort. Even in the darkness, the bruises on Sano's face were evident. Kenshin's fingers froze on the keys, staring in dismay that began edging into anger as Sano reached a hand to lean on the bars, giving him a lopsided, swollen attempt at a grin. An eye swollen shut, a gash with the beginnings of nasty bruise on his cheek, more bruising on his face and who knew what on his body from the careful way he held himself. More damage by far than he'd had when they'd hustled him into this building. Which meant they'd been at him after, in this cell, where his options had been limited.

"S'okay," Sano whispered, flicking his one good eye down at the keys in Kenshin's hands. "Maybe open the cell before he wakes up, huh?"

Kenshin clenched his jaw, biting back the questions that wanted out. He found a likely key and fit it into the lock. The door swung open, creaking on its hinges, but the sleeping official didn't stir. Sano made a motion for Kenshin to wait, and went for his pack, with its belongings scattered on a table against the wall. He stuffed his things back in and limped to the door where Kenshin had already lifted the bar that barricaded it against trespass during the night.

"Before you say it," Sano said, as they edged down the side of the street, keeping well to the shadows. "This wasn't my fault."

"I know. It doesn't mean you aren't a fool." Kenshin paused, a good distance down the street from the jail, and took closer account of Sano's injuries. In the moonlight, the bruises were dark patches on his skin. Kenshin laid fingertips to an irregular patch of discoloration above his rips and Sano sucked in a breath.

"How bad?"

"Had worse, given to me by better. If they hadn't of cuffed my hands, I'd have knocked all their heads together."

Kenshin narrowed his eyes, angrier than he'd been in a very long time.

"It's not like - -" Sano started to say, then broke off, gaze shifting behind Kenshin in surprise. And Kenshin, who had been very focused upon Sano, cursed himself for a fool for not realizing the approach of another man in the darkness.

He realized it now, without even turning. The prickling of the hair along his arms, the feel of cold steel at the back of his neck.

"I was told there were two of you." The stilted British accent that belonged to an Englishman and not an Indian. The smell of boot polish and some pungent cologne.

"Turn around, slowly."

Kenshin did as he was directed, the tip of the blade never wavering from his skin. Cold metal of a straight infantry sword of the sort the British preferred, with a short grip and an ornate guard. Kenshin's eyes drifted up the blade to the man holding it. Sano's height, skin weathered by years under the Indian sun. Without his helmet there was a lighter band around his forehead where the tan ended.

"Are you Chinese spies sent here to stir trouble?"

"Oh for fuck's sake," Sano said. "Do we look Chinese? Are you Europeans that blind that you can't tell the difference?"

Kenshin wished very much that Sano would keep his mouth shut.

"You're an insolent bastard. Escape from custody, assault, espionage - - your list of offenses is growing."

"All of them punishable by a beating then a shooting, right?" Sano said. "Because you English are so stuck up on following the letter of your law."

"Shut up, Sano," Kenshin suggested softly.

The officer's eyes flicked to him and he moved. Just slid around the side of the sword, putting his back to the blade, catching the man's wrist above the guard and forcing the tip of the blade down into the dirt. Continued the turn and slammed the heel of his hand against the side of the Englishman's temple. The man went down, a sprawl of long limbs, the gun, which would have been a better weapon to point at Kenshin, still snug in its holster.

"Sure. That's another way to go," Sano said, bending to grasp the man's ankles and help drag him deeper into the shadows of the alley away from easy discovery. "Granted, if he was pissed before - -"

"Shut up," Kenshin repeated his earlier suggestion and Sano snorted.

It had been a rash move, but Kenshin had found, since Winter had destroyed the life he'd had, that smug Englishmen stretched his tolerances to their limits. And this one had been responsible for Sano being in the shape he was in. Either from his direct order or his lack of control over the men under his command. Either way, he was responsible and the least he deserved was a sore head and bit of embarrassment. They'd pay for it though, in no few sleepless nights with likely pursuit on their heels until they cleared this province.




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